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Global outrage as price for AIDS-treating tablet soars by 5,000 per cent

Published:Tuesday | September 22, 2015 | 5:12 PM

UNITED KINGDOM — A former hedge fund manager has suffered severe backlash globally after purchasing the rights to a 62-year-old drug used for treating AIDS patients and raising the price overnight from US$13.50 per tablet to US$750.

In August, Martin Shkreli, 32, founder and chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased for $55 million the rights to Daraprim — which is used to treat life-threatening parasitic infections.

Shortly thereafter, the price of the drug, which costs roughly $1 to produce, was increased to $750 per tablet.

Shkreli said he hiked the price of the pill because Turing Pharmaceuticals 'needed to turn a profit on the drug'.

Since the announcement, people across social media have criticised the price increase, but Shkreli has backed the decision.

"This isn't the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business," Shkreli said.

He added that many patients use the drug for less than a year and that the price is on par with similar drugs that are used to treat rare diseases.

Since his company acquired the drug, Shkreli has urged the importance of improving Daraprim and said drugs need to be developed for treating neglected tropical diseases.

Shkreli said that the proceeds from the newly high-priced Daraprim will be used to research better treatments and raise awareness for toxoplasmosis, an opportunistic parasitic infection that can cause serious and life-threatening problems.

The disease primarily in babies and people with compromised immune systems, including AIDS and cancer patients.

As the drug has been passed from one pharmaceutical company to another, the price has steadily increased from US$1 to US$13.50.

But when Shkreli acquired the drug, he increased the price by almost 5,500 per cent.

Fierce Biotech editor John Carroll was one of the first people to ask Shkreli to explain why he chose to up the price.

In the heated exchange, Shkreli first said that it was 'a great business decision that also benefits all of our stakeholders', but didn't provide further information.

The Health Ministry is expected to respond to the likely impact on Jamaica.